A mistake

While we wait anxiously to see whether homes, businesses and roads will flood, work on the City Council’s extension to its Seacourt Park & Ride has come to a very wet standstill.

Building a car park in a flood plain is not sensible. Work having started as the wet winter season approached, the site is now a lake and work has stopped. The JCBs have been withdrawn onto the higher ground of the existing car park, and heaps of building materials are abandoned in the water. If the construction had been completed much of the extension would currently be under water. All this while the City is on ‘only’ a Flood Alert, the lowest category of concern.

The construction costs are likely to be much higher than estimated because of the disruption caused by flood events of the kind we’re currently witnessing. Councillors ignored the reality of frequent flooding here when they approved the planning application, and now we’re seeing the consequences. The last official budget figure we’re aware of was around £4million; we have heard, from a usually reliable source, that the cost may have risen to around £6 million, even before the present flooding of the site. Is this a sensible use of tax payers’ money?

Flooding at the site began on  Monday, so it’s already been a working week that it would have been out of action if it had been built – that means lost revenue and an unreliable service. And time and money would then be needed for pumping out, clearing up and very likely making repairs before the extension could be safely reopened to the public. Further expense and further loss of revenue. Because the site is so low-lying, this will happen quite often.

Because it’s a car park and not a field there is increased risk to the public and to vehicles, and it remains to be seen how well the Council is able to manage flooding here. The water came up quite quickly at the start of the week, and in the interests of safety the extension would have had to be closed before that to avoid cars getting trapped in flood water, i.e. sometime early last week. And remember we are only on a Flood Alert, not a Flood Warning. Were people to try to enter even quite shallow floodwater to retrieve their cars things could go horribly wrong.

In the second photo above, from yesterday, you can see two large pipes floating in the lake, one in the centre, the other far over to the right against the boundary fence. If the flooding worsens these could float downstream and jam under the nearby bridge under the Botley Road, exacerbating flood risk. Were it already a car park, for pipes read cars.

We, and many others, fought this ill-conceived project hard. We hope the City Council will even now abandon it and restore the site to its previous state, as a valuable wildlife habitat, including for the badgers who have been driven out. To press on regardless means wasting ever more of Oxford’s citizens’ money, putting off for years any possible financial return to the Council, and meanwhile potentially both increasing flood risk and posing a risk to life and vehicles.

In denial?

The penny is dropping only slowly. It’s crystal clear that the climate is changing and with it the weather we can expect.

“Climate change: Warming signal links global floods and fires” https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50407508

But, despite this, adaptation is slow. Greenpeace report here that building in UK flood plains continues apace, even being proposed in areas currently well under water.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50419925

Venice: flooding and climate change

Disastrous flooding in Venice https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-50416306

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, blamed climate change for the highest water levels in more than 50 years this week, saying the impact was “huge” and would leave “a permanent mark”.

Subsequent coverage here as a further tidal surge hits Venice https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-50430855

 

Concern in the Oxford area

There is increasing concern today that water levels are high in the Oxford area, with a good deal more water still to come down to Oxford from the Cotswolds catchment. The area is presently (midday) on an EA Flood Alert (the lowest level of concern).

We’re seeing more flooding globally, Venice is badly hit at the moment – and the awful flooding in the north of England continues.

There is no doubt that the climate is changing. Oxford has always flooded but the change will make it more common and more severe. The immediate threat may recede now, let’s hope so, but it highlights again that it’s imperative that Oxford is better protected, not only for the many people directly affected but for the city itself to continue to function and thrive into the future.

The multi-partner Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is in process and all concerned are working hard to make it happen as soon as humanly possible. As we have said before, “it can’t come soon enough.”

 

 

Severe flooding in Yorkshire

Exceptional rainfall has caused widespread and serious flooding in the north of England. It seems pretty clear (from this, and many other events worldwide) that climate change is happening here and now https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-50343977

Meanwhile in New South Wales a very different emergency, which again seems almost certain to be climate change related https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-50341207

The list goes on.

Flood defences are sorely needed for Oxford’s river flooding, and more than ever now that we’re faced with more frequent extreme weather events. The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is being developed to provide that defence.

 

 

Further rain in the NW – the huge impact on people

Another BBC report today showing the extent of the damage.

It will be many, many months, even a year or more,  before things are back to normal for many people.

Apart from the obvious physical damage to property and infrastructure, being flooded is known to affect not only people’s mental health but their physical health as well.

“Bramhall, in Stockport, was also badly hit by flooding, with eleven people and four dogs being rescued, GMFRS said.

Jackie Carter, who lives there, said: “I was working from home yesterday and saw the water starting to come over the patio at the back of the house.

“Within two hours we were being evacuated. It’s the second time in three years – the first time we were out of our house for 11 months.

“You are not allowed to live in a house that has been contaminated through ‘black water’ – it seeps in everywhere… the floorboards, everything. I saved as much as I could, photographs and stuff like that, but there’s only a certain amount you can do.” “

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-49187570

 

 

Extreme weather: Flash flooding causes massive damage

The BBC reports widespread damage and disruption from flash flooding in the Yorkshire Dales. Another unusual weather event and evidence of the massively damaging force of flood waters.

“Steve Clough, of the mountain rescue team, said: “The conditions were so bad that in the end only about 10 or 12 team members could make it there.

“The roads were a raging torrent and there were sheds and household oil tanks floating down them.”

Mr Clough said his team spent more than eight hours searching properties in the area, rescuing about 10 people, but he added that North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service helped many more and estimated “100 or more” homes had been affected.

“Some homes had a metre of water in them – it was horrific,” he said.”

More, including videos, in the article:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-

While Oxford’s flooding is not typically flash flooding, the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events, and the damaging effects, disruption, human distress and cost of flooding is relevant everywhere.

Exceptional rainfall causes flooding in NW England

“Rush hour commuters faced delays as heavy rain continued to cause disruption to the North West’s road and rail network.

Trains were cancelled between Manchester and towns including Wigan and Stalybridge. The A555 Manchester Airport Relief Road remained closed.

The equivalent of half a month’s rain fell on the region in the space of 24 hours, said the Met Office.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-49149281

 

Vicki Arroyo: “Let’s prepare for our new climate”

Vicki Arroyo is the Executive Director of the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown Law, where she also serves as the Assistant Dean of Centers and Institutes and a Professor from Practice. See here for more about her: https://www.georgetownclimate.org/about-us/staff.html

In the video below she talks about preparing for and adapting to climate change. She ends with:

“The larger point I’m trying to make is this. It’s up to us to look at our homes and our communities, our vulnerabilities and our exposures to risk, and to find ways to not just survive, but to thrive, and it’s up to us to plan and to prepare and to call on our government leaders and require them to do the same, even while they address the underlying causes of climate change. There are no quick fixes. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. We’re all learning by doing. But the operative word is doing.”

As a flood plain city Oxford is very vulnerable: seven main rivers meet at Oxford, with a combined upstream catchment of about 2,500 km2. For over 10 years our Alliance has been talking to, calling on, and working with, the authorities responsible – from the Directors of the Environment Agency to local government and other bodies –  to make Oxford better prepared for what climate change will bring. A good deal has already been done but more is needed; the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme will enable Oxford to continue to thrive. Without it we may be, almost literally, sunk.

Future UK climate

From the new (26 November 2018) Met Office report on the challenge of climate change in the UK:

‘The projections will be factored into the UK’s flood adaptation planning and the Environment Agency’s advice to flood and coastal erosion risk management authorities.

Since 2010 government has invested a record £2.6 billion in flood defences, and we are on track to protect 300,000 more homes from flooding by 2021.

Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, said: “The UKCP18 projections are further evidence that we will see more extreme weather in the future – we need to prepare and adapt now, climate change impacts are already being felt with the record books being re-written.

“It is not too late to act. Working together – governments, business, and communities – we can mitigate the impacts of climate change and adapt to a different future.

“The Environment Agency cannot wall up the country, but will be at the forefront – protecting communities, building resilience, and responding to incidents.” ‘

The UK’s most comprehensive picture yet of how the climate could change over the next century has been launched today by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.